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Guofang Li, Ph.D. Associate Professor Teacher Education 350 Erickson Hall 517-432-9617 [email protected] Wading in the Muddy Waters of Race and Class: Refugee Children and Inner City Schooling. Background of the Study. Conditions of low-SES families and students in the US

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Guofang Li, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Teacher Education

350 Erickson Hall

517-432-9617

[email protected]

Wading in the Muddy Waters of Race and Class: Refugee Children and Inner City Schooling

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Background of the Study

  • Conditions of low-SES families and students in the US

    • “Rainbow underclass”

    • Racial and residential segregation

  • Poverty, race, and achievement gaps

    • School conditions

    • Minority racial and economic segregation has larger long term effect on achievement (Kainz & Vernon-Feagans, 2007)

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NAPE 2005<Table 1> Achievement Gap between High-poverty and Low-poverty Students


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Average scale scores in NAEP reading for fourth-grade students, by gender and race/ethnicity: 2007

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Efforts to Reduce the Achievement Gaps students, by gender and race/ethnicity: 2007

  • NCLB

  • School-wide reforms

  • Effective teaching strategies

  • Issues:

    • Mostly on classrooms and schools

    • Failure to unpack other social factors outside of school

    • The need to address race and SES factors and their impact on schooling

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This Presentation students, by gender and race/ethnicity: 2007

  • How the global meets the local in an inner city

    • Stories of four culturally diverse families

      • Two Sudanese

      • Two Vietnamese

    • Stories of race, class, and gender as lived by the families

    • Stories of their interacting and reacting to inner city schooling

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The Torkeri Family Profile/Sudanese students, by gender and race/ethnicity: 2007

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The Vietnamese Family Profile students, by gender and race/ethnicity: 2007

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Key Factors Influence Refugee/Immigrant Students’ Schooling

  • Cultural hybridity and conflicts

    • Past-present

    • Border crossing

  • Education and school sanctions.

  • Socio-environmental factors matter:

    • neighborhood environment,

    • social context of reception, i.e., race and class

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1. Cultural Hybridity Schooling

  • The role of school in home literacy practices

    • Homework

    • Reading with children

    • Reading notes and fliers from school

    • Creating study materials such as math homework

  • Literacy for self-improvement

    • No work-related materials home

    • Parents’ drive to improve their own education

  • Literacy for enjoyment and everyday living

    • Read newspapers, magazines, and write emails and cards in two languages

    • Movies and songs in different languages

    • Documents such as immigration papers, applications

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  • Because in my country we have the concept that the children [are] the property of that family issue, property of the nation…you should take [care] of that child... If I don’t know how to brought up my kids, somebody must interfere…come and talk to the kids and children how to behave… Like when you bring them up here…the concept is the opposite. Like your business is always your business, nobody else’s.”

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2. School Sanctions [are] the property of that family issue, property of the nation…you should take [care] of that child... If I don’t know how to brought up my kids, somebody must interfere…come and talk to the kids and children how to behave… Like when you bring them up here…the concept is the opposite. Like your business is always your business, nobody else’s.”

  • The Schools

    • Multicultural school without multicultural substance

    • Welcomes diversity but afraid of its burdens

    • Need to fast transition students to English but lack support and resources

    • Apathy to parents but believe in “culture of poverty”

    • Linking race with achievement

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  • In the classrooms you would fare no better. There are no pictures of scenes from other lands decorating the walls, no special sections in the bookcases for stories about life in other countries, no objects that aren’t familiar to most American boys and girls. You would observe the teacher working with a curriculum that is not any different from that taught in almost any other school in the district. In fact, both the school at large and the classrooms as a whole are guilty of what Hoffman (1996) calls “hallway multicultural-ism,” in effect, using multicultural trappings without self-awareness, without real substance or depth. Like the school described by Hamilton (1994), “the cultural self seems to be missing.” (Emphasis original)

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  • The most significant way that it impacts is that you have parents who are not educated generally, who do not value education. So they don’t instill that in their kids, and they do pass it on to their kids that it’s not that important. Um, so many of the kids came in with the mentality of, “oh, I am just gonna quit when I’m 16, anyway. So what difference does it make?” You have parents who, because they are not educated, cannot help their children with their homework… But if these people are illiterate, they can’t even read what’s been sent home, and that’s a big problem, too. Um, we’ve seen it with a lot of the, the immigrants/refugees, they can’t speak the language so you send something home with them, it’s just going to be ignored because they can’t read it. The same thing with somebody that is not educated and they don’t even try. So the biggest [problem] is if they are not educated, they are not going to place the value of education with their children.

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3. School-Home Conflicts and Parents’ Resistance parents who are not educated generally, who do not value education. So they don’t instill that in their kids, and they do pass it on to their kids that it’s not that important. Um, so many of the kids came in with the mentality of, “oh, I am just gonna quit when I’m 16, anyway. So what difference does it make?” You have parents who, because they are not educated, cannot help their children with their homework… But if these people are illiterate, they can’t even read what’s been sent home, and that’s a big problem, too. Um, we’ve seen it with a lot of the, the immigrants/refugees, they can’t speak the language so you send something home with them, it’s just going to be ignored because they can’t read it. The same thing with somebody that is not educated and they don’t even try. So the biggest [problem] is if they are not educated, they are not going to place the value of education with their children.

  • School and home literacy fracturing

    • Different demands on language uses and cultural practices

    • 1st and 2nd languages at home and school

    • School’s failure to know their language needs

    • The meaning of reading with your child

  • Resistance and “conformity” to urban schooling

    • Resist school practices such as ESL pullout programs

    • Dealing with teacher malpractice (loss of students’ homework)

    • Resist city school enrollment policy

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  • We discussed it before at school like at the PTO meeting and all this stuff. But they said it’s according to the system, they can’t change anything. It depend on the government, because this is not the first time that they are doing this, and this is not their fault. If the government could pay for that because we say, “why don’t they teach the ESL like, they select some days, at the evening instead of pulling the kids out from the class, and then leaving the others going on with the lecture?” But they said, “No.” They can’t do that. They said, it needs like a special budget for that and all this… They said “What should we do? It is the system.”

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  • They just put him in the ESL class and I think the teacher is Vietnamese. But the thing is, Chinh cannot speak Vietnamese either, nor can he understand a lot of it. So, it just doesn’t make any sense [to put him in ESL] … And he usually doesn’t understand the materials that he learns in school. So, whenever he comes home, and I basically have to teach him the material and it does irritate me because he is going to school for 6 hours but he is not learning anything … So, he comes home and expects me to sit there to teach him. It irritates me because I have my own work and I don’t mind teaching him if he doesn’t understand, but he has to go to school for 6 hours and he is not learning anything and he is coming home and asking me for help. Why don’t I get paid to teach him, you know?

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4. Literacy and socio-environment factors is Vietnamese. But the thing is, Chinh cannot speak Vietnamese either, nor can he understand a lot of it. So, it just doesn’t make any sense [to put him in ESL] … And he usually doesn’t understand the materials that he learns in school. So, whenever he comes home, and I basically have to teach him the material and it does irritate me because he is going to school for 6 hours but he is not learning anything … So, he comes home and expects me to sit there to teach him. It irritates me because I have my own work and I don’t mind teaching him if he doesn’t understand, but he has to go to school for 6 hours and he is not learning anything and he is coming home and asking me for help. Why don’t I get paid to teach him, you know?

  • 4.1. The influence of a declining neighborhood

    • White flight

    • Transient

    • Drugs and violence

    • High poverty

    • Declining school morale and community culture

    • Closing of the public services such as libraries

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  • “It’s like watching a Hollywood movie right from your front porch!”

  • “It used to be better and now it got worse…People have just been worse; people just don’t care any more… They just are bad… Fight, scream… People just punch people. They don’t care. They don’t really care. Teachers are just as bad…Shout the kids down.” (Rod)

  • All the city schools are going down…’coz everyone disrespects everything. (Scott)

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4.2. The Issue of Race front porch!”

  • The influence of race relations and racism

    • Racial tensions between the black and white

    • Racial concentration and the index of school achievement

    • “The constructed black other”

  • Resistance and conformity to the dominant racial discourse

    • Sudanese and racial stereotypes

    • Poor whites and reversed racism

    • Asians and the model minority stereotypes

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  • When we talk to them, they said they don’t know their origin, where they came from. They know that they came from Africa, but which is specific country, they don’t know. But this is history, you can’t deny history. It’s there. If you like it or you don’t like it, it’s there. …The difference between us and them, we know where we come from. We know our generation; we know our elder grandpa and all this stuff. But for them is just like, some of them, they like us, some of them, they dislike us. Like one day, I was just talking to one of friends of mine. And he said that you are lucky. First of all, you have a language that you can speak and you know where you come from. Even one day you can decide and go on visit. But for me, I’m just like stuck here.”

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  • There are things like that happening. But still there is chance. Why do you give up that for education? They have a lot of chances here.” Anne further elaborates her point, “But they have to struggle. There is nothing that you can find easily like that. Everything you have to struggle for it and then after that, at the end you can succeed. I don’t support the system here. That is good that welfare can help, but like if you are helping me, like others, they like to be single mom. If I’m a single mom, I don’t think there is a reason that I keep on every year pregnant and getting more children, and no not, I just depend on support, why? … Sometimes my heart is just breaking, because…there is a time tomorrow, they can become president; they can be, they can serve people like they can be in political places and all these stuff. They are many chances. But if …you keep on like [being] a single mom, [having] kids, and be in welfare. My kids tomorrow, they will have kids and they will be at welfare. Why should I keep on doing that?

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  • “They pick on me because of my teeth [that needed braces] and because I am not black.” They called me, “a Nigger” or sometimes “Chinese” and hit me…They don’t care. They call everyone whatever…they call white people whatever that bad word, they just call everyone that… they don’t even understand what a Negro is. He swears at people ‘cause he just learned from someone else.”

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4.3. The Issue of Class and because I am not black.” They called me, “a Nigger” or sometimes “Chinese” and hit me…They don’t care. They call everyone whatever…they call white people whatever that bad word, they just call everyone that… they don’t even understand what a Negro is. He swears at people ‘cause he just learned from someone else.”

  • Resistance and “conformity” to the “culture of poverty”

  • The influence of social class

    • Contradictory class locations

    • Middle class poor people and cultural capital

    • The limits of concerted cultivation to school success

    • The chances of getting out of inner city

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Conclusions and because I am not black.” They called me, “a Nigger” or sometimes “Chinese” and hit me…They don’t care. They call everyone whatever…they call white people whatever that bad word, they just call everyone that… they don’t even understand what a Negro is. He swears at people ‘cause he just learned from someone else.”

  • Literacy is culturally contested.

  • Literacy learning requires skillful and successful cultural translation.

  • Socio-environmental factors can be “limit situations” (Freire, 1977) and constraints to literacy achievements.

  • School practices can also be “limit situations”

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  • The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line − the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea. (Du Bois, 1903)

  • In the 21st century urban America, the problem is not just the color line, but also the culture line, the class line, and the power line (Li, 2008, p. 163).

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Questions color-line − the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea

  • How can we help minority and/or immigrant students become better cultural translators between the past and the present and between school and home?

  • How can we as teachers and educators better understand and identify “limit situations” that hinder student achievements?

  • How can we help students overcome those “limit situations” in an inner city environment?

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Thank you!! color-line − the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea

Li, G. (2008). Culturally contested literacies: America’s “rainbow underclass” and urban schools. New York: Routlege.For questions and discussion, please contact:

Dr. Guofang [email protected]

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